New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) expressed his adoration for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a video tribute that played at the union's annual conference in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Click above to watch.) In his remarks, de Blasio called AFT President Randi Weingarten "a change agent" who has "been fighting the good fight," and he lauded local union boss Michael Mulgrew as a "steadfast advocate for his members," who showed in recent contract negotiation that "he cared just as deeply about the students of New York City."
So how about that just-inked teachers contract that de Blasio called "a testament of what can be achieved when people of goodwill work together?" In a nutshell, the mayor agreed to large retroactive raises the city can't afford, and in exchange extracted few concessions regarding lockstep pay and rules that make it impossible to kick off the payroll teachers who no longer have to show up for work because principals don't want them in their schools.
At recent public forum hosted by The Manhattan Institute (watch it online), an expert panel dissected the contract:
- Teachers are eligible to earn merit bonuses worth up to $20,000, but the pay bumps have to be cleared by a "central committee" that includes representatives from the union. "This seems a lot more like patronage than it does merit pay," said Jenny Sedlis of StudentsFirstNY. It means "more bureaucracy and less power for the educators out in the field," said Daniel Weisberg of The New Teacher Project.
- Teachers get raises amounting to 19% through 2018, including retroactive raises for 2009 and 20010 worth $4.3 billion, which the city will pay out over the next six years. "In 2018, we'll have a $9.8 billion teacher
payroll, and 9% will be for work done nearly a decade ago," noted the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas.
- The contract stipulates that the city and union must work together to find $1.3 billion in annual health care savings, but it ruled out asking teachers to contribute to their own health care premiums (as pretty much every other member of the American labor force does). So where then will all that savings come from? "A lot of us are skeptical this is going to produce results," said Charles Brecher of the Citizens Budget Commission.
- How about those 1200 tenured teachers on the payroll who sit at home because they can't find a job? The new contract establishes a limited, temporary "expedited" removal process with no teeth. "I have absolutely no faith it will result in teachers getting exited," says Weisberg, a former city lawyer who used to sit across the bargaining table from the UFT. "It's window dressing."
In other news, Mayor de Blasio is packing his bags for a 10-day vacation in Italy, where he'll also set aside time to accomplish some of his essential duties in governing New York by discussing climate change and income inequality with the italians.
In a recent Reason TV video, I traced de Blasio's sycophantic relationship with AFT boss Randi Weingarten back to 2003, making a case that his steadfast opposition to charter schools is rooted in his desire to please the union.